Mother nature is alive and well in everything Spanish illustrator Mia Charro creates.
From her signature cheery florals to her delightfully endearing creatures—all it takes is one look at Mia’s work and you’ll feel her positivity radiating through. Here, Mia shares what inspires her sunny disposition and dives deep into the communicative power of art itself.
I’ve got to admit, before we even start, your work has put me in such a great mood! How can someone not smile when they see your flower crown animal series. So let us meet the mind behind these cuddly creations. What’s a day in the life of Mia look like? Give us a little tour of your studio and surroundings.
I always try to get up early because I like to see the colors of the sky at dawn. Then I do 30 minutes of yoga to clear my mind and prepare for the day. My neighborhood has a lot of trees and my house is surrounded by nature, so I always try to go for a walk, listen to the birds singing and enjoy those first moments of the day. Then I go back to my studio, open the windows so I can see the mountains from my table, make a cup of tea and I get to work.
My studio is quite eclectic. I have very little furniture and few decorations. It seems a contradiction with my illustrations, which are full of details, but in my home I like simple and luminous spaces which transmit harmony to me. I think it’s to balance my inner self, which is very colorful.
Where do you feel most inspired?
Inspiration comes when I find myself in a state of calm and relaxation—like when I’m on vacation or in nature. It is in this state of relaxation that a magical connection to the world of ideas is opened. In other words, my “Eureka” moments never come in periods of stress.
Sunrise and sunset are magical moments for me. My mind is enraptured by the beauty of the colors of the sky and it is then that I feel most like drawing.
What is it about Spain that drew you there?
I was born in Spain so it’s where home and my family are. It’s a country full of contrasts and variety and it has a fascinating historical richness. We have one of the oldest European dialects, Euskera, which is spoken in the area where I live. Euskera is a mystery to linguists because its origins are unknown. We have a lot of traditions related to goblins, magical beings, sorceresses… and I love that.
Moreover, it is a country that has historically loved creativity and art in all its corners, from the North to the South, from the East to the West. Of course the climate and the food are a plus, too.
Does your family share your love of the arts?
One of my brothers plays and composes on the piano and also paints and takes photographs. I also have cousins who are musicians and painters. So yes, music, photography and painting have deep roots in our family.
I also have the wonderful luck of sharing my life and hobbies with my partner, who has won several abstract photography contests and has always been interested in painting.
I wonder if you could expand on the role that art plays in your life and your relationships?
I have always understood art as a need to communicate the unnameable. We share a spirit of unity in returning to our roots, to our family, to our friends. Many times it’s difficult for people to express their feelings so we resort to using symbols, like giving a bouquet of flowers or a greeting card to make someone smile. Art plays that role in my life—giving away cards in which you have written something special or creating an illustration in which you have put all your affection. Art is a feeling captured in time and a valuable gift for the one who receives it.
Additionally, for me, art is part of an internal search—a yearning for knowledge about nature and the spirit and our union with it. It is a way of communicating to the world the part of my heart that speaks without words.
That’s a really beautiful way of thinking about art and let me be one of many people to say that your art communicates that extremely well.
Similarly, on the subject of using art to communicate a feeling to new audiences, you are a very successful children’s illustrator. I’m curious where your interest in children’s illustration began?
Honestly, I don’t know. My illustrations just come out like this—hahaha. I’ve always loved to look at the illustrations of the stories I read. I think the childish elements from my own work may be due to the magical themes that I like so much or perhaps it’s my use of vibrant colors.
In addition, I always try to convey positive messages, which I could see coming across as childish or simple. However, I think that sometimes the simplest things are the hardest ones to see. Life has taught me that if you want to grow, you have to be considerate of what you think. How you think is how you act, and ultimately, it’s your acts that will take you where you want to go. See? This thinking may seem like a big cliché, but it still has an incalculable wisdom and value to it.
In the original Yoga, the one given by the masters in India, they teach about the 5 pillars to good health and a good life:
- Directed breathing
- Balanced diet
- Moderate exercise
- Restorative rest
- Positive thinking
So I attach a lot of importance to positive thinking, and I think it’s beneficial to convey this idea to the little ones.
One of my favorite questions for children’s illustrators is if you could give a classic children’s tale the Mia touch, which would it be?
I love fables and traditional stories. There’s one in particular from the Cherokee people called “The Two Wolves” that I’d love to illustrate some day.
One morning an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that happens inside people.
The old man said: “My son, this battle is between two wolves that are inside all of us. One wolf represents evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sadness, grief, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, pride, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.
The other wolf represents good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
The same battle takes place within you, and within each person as well.”
The grandson meditated on this for a minute and asked his grandfather: “What wolf wins?”
To which his grandfather replied: “The one you feed.”
I’d never heard that one before but I love it. Such a simple but powerful lesson.
Speaking of children’s stories, you’re an author as well. What would you say are the biggest differences and biggest similarities between the writing and illustrating process?
I think they are very similar processes in that both are about telling a story to someone. It’s really about whether you can use colors or words. Of course, telling a story through text is easier because we are used to thinking in words. But the image, however, is able to reach where the text can not. Sometimes a color or a form is able to communicate the unnameable.
What’s next? Any projects (that you can discuss…) coming up? Anything you’ve always wanted to tackle creatively?
The truth is, I have so many projects in mind, I don’t know where to start. Lately I have discovered journaling and it has helped me set and schedule goals for myself as well as keep track of my ideas so that they don’t get “blown away.”
I would definitely love to create another story this year, in English, and another collection of fabrics. I’d also love to explore the world of online courses. There are a lot of people who ask me for advice and I think it’s important to pass on what you’ve learned so that we can all grow together.
BONUS QUESTION: One of my favorite “getting to know you” games is two truths and a lie, where you give us two real facts about yourself and one lie and we try to guess which is which. So, two truths and a lie starring Mia Charro. Go.
I love this question. Here I go:
- When I was a little girl I lived with my family in a house in the country. One day I went out into the garden and saw an elongated UFO on top of the house.
- I have a relative ease in finding four-leaf clovers. So far I have found five.
- I love skating, in fact I have won several local competitions.
Ooh these are great. Okay, so I will say that the four-leaf clovers is a truth. You love being outside and it’s clear you notice the details of nature so paying attention to and keeping track of four-leaf clovers seems right up your alley.
Now for UFO or skating… I think I will say that the UFO is a lie. You’re a great writer and storyteller so while I want this to be true, my guards were up and I feel like this may have been a dream of yours maybe? A childhood fantasy?
How’d I do?
Your response to my 2 truths and a lie is… incorrect. 🙂
I’m so bad at skating. I have a very bad equilibrium and I always fall. Which means the UFO story is true. Very strange experience, but true. Many times reality is better than fiction 😉
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your world with us. I definitely echo those who have told you to set up online courses because your insights into art and creating are something we can all learn from. And please check back with us when your new book is ready—or if you have anymore UFO encounters…
Photos by Arantxa Sole